So you’ve wandered the Laines, had an ice cream on the pier and taken a spin on the i360. You’ve done Brighton, right?
Wrong. ‘London-on-Sea‘, much like its landlocked sibling, has a wealth of odd, unusual and off-the-beaten-track places to visit and things to see and do, if you know where to look. Which we do, naturally:
Visit Anna’s Museum, Brighton
More a private collection than a museum, Anna’s Museum itself isn’t open to the public, but passers-by can get a glimpse of a taxidermy artist’s collection in an otherwise non-descript window secreted down a residential back street. So whimsical is its existence that it even has its own Atlas Obscura entry.
Within the bay window, items change on an irregular basis, but past specimens have included seagulls suspended from the ceiling, fragile eggs gently resting on display mounts, and mouse bones, a wasps’ nest, and the shredded skin of a python. Records of the exhibits can be found on the website.
A curtain backdrop ensures that no further information can be gleaned about what lies behind the window — just take it at face value and move on.
Anna’s Museum, 45 Upper North Street, Brighton.
Visit The Police Cells Museum, Brighton
Many a stag or hen do has inadvertently spent a day in the cells in Brighton — but did you know that you can do so without gaining a criminal record?
Located right beneath Brighton Town Hall, the Old Police Cells Museum is all about the history of policing and crime in Sussex. It tells stories of criminals who spent the night in cells before they were closed in 1929, as well as the murder of Chief Constable Henry Solomon in 1844.
Local archives, police reports and witness accounts are pieced together to give a wider look at crime in Sussex, and the history of incarceration, particularly in the Victorian period, is addressed. Oh, and you can get married down there, if you’re so inclined.
It’s only accessible by tour, so check ahead to make sure tours are running when you plan to visit.
The Old Police Cells Museum, Brighton Town Hall, Bartholomew Square. Entry free, donations welcome.
Visit Booth Museum, Brighton
A bit further out of the city centre (a 20 minute walk from the station), Booth Museum is a natural history museum which started life as a private collection in Victorian times, and is now located in a former church. These days, it’s free, and family-friendly, with focus largely on birds and butterflies.
For those who like the bigger animals, the bones collection includes skeletons and fossils from the local area dating back to the time of woolly mammoths— although some are currently off display for a gallery refurbishment.
When the museum’s founder, Edward Booth, died in 1890, it was his wish that his collection be bequeathed to what we now know as the Natural History Museum in London, but locals stepped in, and it became the property of what was then the Brighton Corporation, and it still belongs to the local authority today.
Booth Museum, 194 Dyke Road, BN1 5AA. Entry free.
Visit Brighton Naturist Beach
If you’re really looking to let it all out on a trip to Brighton, head for the city’s nudist beach. It was the first public naturist beach in the UK, and is surrounded by a pebble bank to provide some privacy for bathers. Plenty of signs are planted around its perimeter, providing warning for any unaware beachgoers as to what lies ahead.
As with the rest of this stretch of coastline, it’s a pebble beach, so no need to worry about getting sand in your unmentionables.
Brighton Naturist Beach is located the pier and the Marina (closer to the latter), it’s walkable from the centre of Brighton — or hop on the miniature railway next to the pier.
Don’t be shy — many TripAdvisor reviews of the beach are from first timers who were nervous about getting their kit off, but loved the experience.
Brighton Naturist Beach, Madeira Drive. Entry is free (which is a relief, for where would you store your coins?).
Visit Brighton Toy and Model Museum
You barely need to leave the railway station to visit Brighton Toy & Model Museum, a nostalgia-inducing experience spanning three railway arches. Train fans are well catered for with two working railway layouts on display, and sky-minded vistors can gawp 14 large-scale radio-controlled model aircraft strung from the ceiling.
With more than 10,000 items on display, there’s more than just transport to see, with vintage end-of-the-pier slot machines updated to take modern 10p coins, plus dolls houses, teddy bears, toy kitchens and other childhood favourites.
Brighton Toy and Model Museum, 52-55 Trafalgar Street, BN1 4EB. Admission is £6.50 adult/£4 child.
Visit the Pet Cemetery, at Preston Manor Brighton
Edwardian house Preston Manor is impressive enough — laid out as it was when the Stanford family lived there, with separate servants quarters — but while you’re there, take time to look in the garden. The beautifully kept walled garden is home to a pet cemetery, rumoured to be the last resting place of at least 16 dogs and three cats.
Look out for the tiny gravestones up against the stone wall, nestled among the plants — and see if these poor creatures had as many terrible names as their London cousins. Watch a tour of the cemetery.
Preston Manor, Preston Drove, BN1 6SD. Admission is £7.40 adult/£4.20 child.
Visit JB’s American Diner, Brighton seafront
Now we’re not claiming this is an undiscovered secret — quite the opposite, if the queues on a summer weekend are anything to go by. But it is one of the most eclectic restaurants in the city, and our go-to every single time.
In true American style, JB’s Diner serves up towering portions of burgers, hot dogs and fries (we’d advise sharing a portion of fries between two). The milkshakes are some of the tastiest we’ve had, beautifully presented and usually spilling over into two or more receptacles. But the main attraction is the decor. The place is American squared, with posters, signs, neon lights, jukeboxes, mannequins and advertising signs covering every surface, and Tom & Jerry playing on loop on a couple of TV screens. Admittedly it’s not to everyone’s taste, but it’s good fun.
Our tip? Build up an appetite doing everything else on this list, then head to JB’s, settle into a booth for an afternoon and load up on carbs and sugar. All before rolling across to the beach on the other side of the road and sleeping it off for an hour or two.
JB’s American Diner, 31 King’s Road, BN1 1NR.
We know, we know, we’re Londonist and this isn’t in London. Sometimes we like to show you interesting places to go and things to do that are a little further afield. For more things to do near London, take a look at our day trips from London page.